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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

School Board President Affeldt Responds to Brown Act Scandal

Emery School Board President John Affeldt has submitted the following letter today for Tattler readers to consider regarding fallout from the November 18th Emery School District Brown Act violation (please see numerous previous Tattler stories for background, starting with the opening November 23rd story).  The letter is the text from the verbal response given at the School Board meeting of December 2nd by Mr Affeldt.

Statement of John Affeldt, EUSD Board President 

As Supt. Rubio has noted it was a technical violation of the Brown Act to have a third board member be present to observe a Superintendent’s committee meeting on November 18th . We all regret this error; I am sorry it happened on my watch, and we will make sure this does not happen again.

Let me emphasize, there was no substantive consequence as a result of Member Merriam’s presence on November 18th. No actions were taken, no decisions were made. What is more, the information generated at the Superintendent’s committee meeting was immediately shared with the full board and the public at the board meeting that night. The only discussion by board members on November 18th as to whether to support the bond issuance was had in public at the full board meeting. The sole purpose of the Superintendent’s committee meeting was to update the list of known and potential outstanding ECCL construction costs. The Board as a whole, when discussing the bond item at its prior public meeting, had requested that such a list be presented to the Board at the meeting on November 18th .

That this meeting occurred as it did was an honest mistake. I and the other board members present at the meeting relied on staff’s understanding that it was not a violation of the Brown Act to have a third board member observe the meeting, but not participate. There is such a rule, but it did not apply in this instance. Staff were confusing the fact that additional board members are permitted to silently observe publicly noticed meetings of two-member committees of the board. This was a superintendent’s committee meeting and, as such, is not publicly noticed. In that case, the non-participation of the third board member does not prevent a quorum from being formed. As the Supt. has noted, the Board will undertake additional training to refresh all of us on the Brown Act, most likely at our semi-annual retreat early next year.

I appreciate Member Patz informing us of the fact that he believed a Brown Act violation had occurred. I was wrong in my understanding that it had not. Yet, Mr. Patz did more than convey that belief. On November 18th , he made very inflammatory claims about what occurred at the Superintendent’s committee meeting—asserting that board members intentionally used the meeting to act as a “cabal,” to discuss and “pre-determine” passage of the bond. And, he did so without even first asking his fellow board members what had taken place. I take issue with anyone who is willing to make assertions with reckless disregard for whether they are true or not. When any person, much less a public official, makes an unfounded, inflammatory assertion, they sow confusion and undermine open and honest civic dialogue. We don’t all have to agree. But we all should refrain from making unfounded accusations of intentional wrong-doing against each other.

Now, it doesn’t feel right to end it right there. On reflection, it has occurred to me that Mr. Patz may have acted as he did because of a fundamental lack of trust of his fellow board members. Now, we may have different styles; we may have different personalities; we may have different objectives. But we are all on this Board together and we have to lead this district together.
To do that, we have to trust each other. So, I’m going to propose that the Board, at its retreat in the early part of the coming year, explore engaging some kind of intervention where we can work on the trust issues that currently exist so that we can move forward together. We have many important items before us in the coming year, including addressing our composition between Anna Yates and ECCL and opening the ECCL facility. I look forward to continuing to work with all members of the board and the school community on these and other matters.


  1. then why wasn't mr. patz invited to attend the closed meeting in the first place?

    sorry, john. your "I'm sorry" doesn't sit well with me.

  2. Fair enough for me. I also like the proposal to have an "Intervention" workshop on trust issues. I think that is a useful proposal.
    I still don't think Dr. Patz' remarks were inflammatory however. Given the fact that he was left out of the meeting, he was free to assume the worst.
    I support Christian Patz and in fact think his agenda is most aligned with my family's. I'd like to see you all incorporate Mr. Patz more.
    I do support the board but I have to say I'm still not sure what Don Merriam and Joy bring to the table. They rarely look engaged at the meetings to me. I hope they are more engaged behind closed doors.

  3. Mr. Affeldt's deflecting responsibility for the violation to the school board staff gives me the creeps, as do his attempts to move the focus off himself and onto Mr. Patz. This is not the way community leaders behave.

  4. You know what builds trust in elected officials? Open public meetings.

    I absolutely oppose Member Patz trusting the rest of you, because *I* don't trust the rest of you and I want someone to represent me on that Board!

    The way Affeldt was so dismissive of a couple dozen parents a few months back when they begged and pleaded for a chance to discuss Anna Yates' fate was just the most glaring example, up to that point, of why people should not trust this Board majority to work in their or their childrens' best interest.

    And what has happened since that time? No open public discussions about how to keep Anna Yates open. Instead just secret closed meetings and silence.

    Affeldt still misunderstands a fundamental aspect of this Brown Act scandal. The "Superintendent" committees themselves are ALSO a violation of the Brown Act. Borenstein explained this very clearly in the Oakland Tribune. These committees were created by the Board several years ago and the public used to be able to attend. Only when Rubio came in did they suddenly close the doors to members of the public they don't like. If they released the list of people that have attended these meetings over the last several months we'd learn that *some* members of the public that the Board majority views as allies are permitted to attend, while other members of the public are excluded. Even if the composition of the committee itself weren't already a violation of the Brown Act, this practice of selective public exclusion on its own makes these committees a violation.

    You didn't make a one-time mistake based on faulty recollection of a training from a year ago. You are continuing to actively defend ongoing violations.

    1. The charge you have leveled about unpopular members of the public being excluded from the private "Superintendent Committees" if substantiated, is newsworthy. Do you have a way for me to investigate this charge? Please email me if you feel you need to.